SJP Announces Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Campaign
At 12:40 on Tuesday, October 9th, members of Swarthmore Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) stood on Parrish Porch to make an announcement to the Swarthmore community. Behind them was a large black wall covered in graffiti blocking the entrance into Parrish Hall. As a crowd of students gathered around the steps, SJP members passed out stickers that read “Swarthmore Funds Apartheid. Divest Now.”
To begin the event, Abby Saul ‘19 thanked everyone for attending and acknowledged Indigenous People’s Day. She reminded attendees that Swarthmore sits on land stolen from the Lenape people and that, similarly, every day Palestinians are facing the colonization of their land. She also emphasized that this colonial violence continues to this day, and that everyone has a role in it. Before moving to the next speaker, the crowd took a moment of silence to recognize the violence and brutalization constantly occurring in the world.
Next, Mohammed Bappe ‘20 read a statement written by another student who could not publicly speak because of “the surveillance of the US and Israeli army.”
“In 2017 the UN declared Israel an apartheid state. Under international law, apartheid is the policy or system of segregation and discrimination on the grounds of race,” he read. “However, Israel’s Occupation of Palestine - yes, it is Occupation, some of us have been there - funded and supported by the United States has long predated this.” He continued by explaining that Palestinian families displaced in 1948 continue to be stateless and are still unable to return. He condemned the military checkpoints that cause harm and disrupt the lives of Palestinians every day. “Between 2000 and 2005, 67 Palestinian mothers were forced to give birth at these checkpoints. 36 babies died,” he stated.
Bappe continued to describe the conditions in which Palestinians live every day. “Israel controls the water supply to Gaza,” he said, “99 percent of the water they receive is undrinkable. Four hours of electricity per day. Palestinians born in Gaza cannot leave. It is the world’s largest open air prison.” He condemned the College for investing in companies that support the Occupation, saying that therefore the College is funding apartheid. He then announced the launch of Swarthmore’s Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign this year.
Zoe Jannuzi ‘22 then explained more about the implications of this campaign. According to Jannuzi, BDS is used “to pressure Israel into ending the Occupation and to start respecting the fundamental human rights of Palestinians. It is a nonviolent and effective way to condemn the actions of companies that enforce Israeli apartheid.” She announced that SJP is calling on Swarthmore College to divest from seven companies: Caterpillar, Hyundai, Boeing, Elbit Systems, Lockheed Martin, Hewlett Packard, and Bank Hapoalim.
“The BDS movement successfully stigmatizes and isolates the companies that support apartheid,” she said. She reminded attendees of Swarthmore’s failure to divest from apartheid South Africa until two Black members of the Board of Managers threatened to resign. She adamantly stated that with the newly launched BDS movement, “we can’t and won’t let it come to that.” She called on President Val Smith and Board Chair Salem Schuchman ‘84 to stop supporting the Occupation and apartheid in Palestine.
Fouad Dakwar ‘22 shared a spoken word piece about his reflections on the violence in Palestine. “In the past 15 years, for almost as long as I have lived, 15 Palestinian children have been killed for every one Israeli kid. Is it still really a conflict or a war when the Palestinian death count and land loss grows exponentially more, in an altercation between a stateless group of displaced faces facing military occupation funded by global superpower nations?”
“So tell me this: How else can we resist besides letting ourselves exist?” he asked. Throughout his poem, attendees snapped and cheered, expressing support for his words. Afterwards, Will Marchese ‘20 highlighted the effectiveness of collective action, mentioning the fossil fuel divestment campaign that began eight years ago and the Organizing for Survivors movement that took shape last year. He also reminded attendees of the urgency of the BDS campaign.
“The UN has reported that Gaza will be environmentally uninhabitable by as soon as 2020,” he said. “The clock’s ticking, as Swarthmore stands complicit. We have two years. If not us, who? If not now, when?”
Marchese then announced the next BDS action: a community teach-in on Thursday, October 10th at 6:00PM in Kohlberg and encouraged everyone to join. To end, he led the group in two chants, saying, “Donald Trump/ You will see/ Palestine will be free” and “Not another nickel/ Not another dime/ No more money for Israel’s crimes.” He closed out the gathering with the “I Believe That We Will Win” chant, emphasizing SJP’s unwillingness to give up in their fight for justice in Palestine.
You can find the full recording of the event here.